Bernd Brunner’s own fascination with birds infuses every page of this wonderfully quirky book, which starts from the premise that we are all birdwatchers, whether we know it or not. The book presents a series of thumbnail sketches of individuals throughout history and from all over the world who have been interested in birds, either as a hobby or a profession. These birders come from all strata of society, from royalty through the educated classes to foresters, even including an Auschwitz guard. Brunner also discusses developments in general attitudes to birds, such as the founding of the RSPB in England, and the influence of modern technology on our relationship with birds.
A number of famous people appear in these pages: St Francis, who regarded birds as his brothers; Mozart, who mourned the death of a starling which imitated his compositions; Aristotle, who described the character of birds; Leonardo, who was the first to work on a flying machine to imitate birds’ flight; and Teddy Roosevelt, who banned ladies from wearing birds’ feathers in their hats. This is a tapestry of many colours and infinite variety, packed with scholarship and knowledge.